Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

Business Cases in PRINCE2


I went to the New Zealand PRINCE2 User Group meeting on Thursday. The group promotes a collegial approach to the Project Management body of practice. The topic of the gathering was Business cases in PRINCE2. This was an interesting discussion with a specific example of a project where a tertiary education provider is undertaking a business case to establish whether to build high quality student accommodation to attract foreign students.

NZ PRINCE2 User Group Meeting ... courtesy NZP2UG Website

The key discussion point centred around how business cases are required to be a living document. The example sighted had many factors from student numbers to various quality requirements. The fact that it is a multi-million dollar investment – potentially with a 25 year timeline significantly increased uncertainties. Moreover, providing tertiary education is the business of the organisation, not providing accommodation.

The business case centres around improving student numbers, but also needs to take into central and local government legislations, evolving expectations of students and their parents, economic realities of time etc. Since the business case was undertaken, the economic crisis has well and truly kicked in. Definition of of affordability expectations have been re-aligned significantly. The Christchurch earthquake, and the loss of life of many foreign students have also changed perceptions.

Validating assumptions is a key element in good business cases. On the outset the client had assumed that the key competition was likely to be Australian tertiary education providers. However, once examined, it turned out that while Australian providers were very high quality, they were less affordable. Canada turned out to be the key competitor, because of affordability, quality of education and student accommodation. A simple assumption could have derailed the success of the project.

Another discussion centred around the need to quantify the intangible benefits. How do you go about achieving mandates like “improve customer satisfaction”? If there is a feeling that there are issues in that area, how do you judge if you were successful. The only way you can do so is if there are existing studies to go by. If not, one needs to ensure a benchmark is taken as part of the project. Otherwise, the project needs to proceed on other merits.

One theme that was confirmed during discussions is the need to ensure business cases remain a living document. The tendency to use the business case to embark on a project is not sufficient. It needs to stay in the forefront to ensure if benefits outlined in business case are not likely to be realised, the project is aborted.

All in all a good night of discussions. If you are in the vicinity, why not stop by. Membership is free, just visit http://www.prince2.org.nz for details of our next meeting.

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